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GitHub Cloner & Compiler

This project serves as the data collection process for training neural decompilers, such as CMUSTRUDEL/DIRE.

The code for compilation is adapted from bvasiles/decompilationRenaming. The code for decompilation is adapted from CMUSTRUDEL/DIRE.


  1. Install Docker and MongoDB.
  2. Install required Python packages by:
    pip install -r requirements.txt
  3. Rename database-config-example.json to database-config.json, and fill in appropriate values. This will be used to connect to your MongoDB server.
  4. Build the Docker image used for compiling programs by:
    docker build -t gcc-custom .


Running the Compiler

You will need a list of GitHub repository URLs to run the code. The current code expects one URL per line, for example:

To run, simply execute:

python --repo-list-file path/to/your/list [arguments...]

The following arguments are supported:

  • --repo-list-file [path]: Path to the list of repository URLs.
  • --clone-folder [path]: The temporary directory to store cloned repository files. Defaults to repos/.
  • --binary-folder [path]: The directory to store compiled binaries. Defaults to binaries/.
  • --archive-folder [path]: The directory to store archived repository files. Defaults to archives/.
  • --n-procs [int]: Number of worker processes to spawn. Defaults to 0 (single-process execution).
  • --log-file [path]: Path to the log file. Defaults to log.txt.
  • --clone-timeout [int]: Maximum cloning time (seconds) for one repository. Defaults to 600 (10 minutes).
  • --force-reclone: If specified, all repositories are cloned regardless of whether it has been processed before or whether an archived version exists.
  • --compile-timeout [int]: Maximum compilation time (seconds) for all Makefiles under a repository. Defaults to 900 (15 minutes).
  • --force-recompile: If specified, all repositories are compiled regardless of whether is has been processed before.
  • --docker-batch-compile: Batch compile all Makefiles in one repository using one Docker invocation. This is on by default, and you almost always want this. Use the --no-docker-batch-compile flag to disable it.
  • --compression-type [str]: Format of the repository archive, available options are gzip (faster) and xz (smaller). Defaults to gzip.
  • --max-archive-size [int]: Maximum size (bytes) of repositories to archive. Repositories with greater sizes will not be archived. Defaults to 104,857,600 (100MB).
  • --record-libraries [path]: If specified, a list of libraries used during failed compilations will be written to the specified path. See Collecting and Installing Libraries for details.
  • --logging-level [str]: The logging level. Defaults to info.
  • --max-repos [int]: If specified, only the first max_repos repositories from the list will be processed.
  • --recursive-clone: If specified, submodules in the repository will also be cloned if exists. This is on by default. Use the --no-recursive-clone flag to disable it.
  • --write-db: If specified, compilation results will be written to database. This is on by default. Use the --no-write-db flag to disable it.
  • --record-metainfo: If specified, additional statistics will be recorded.
  • --gcc-override-flags: If specified, these are passed as compiler flags to GCC. By default -O0 is used.


  • If compilation is interrupted, there may be leftovers that cannot be removed due to privilege issues. Purge them by:
    ./ /path/to/clone/folder

    This is because intermediate files are created under different permissions, and we need root privileges (sneakily obtained via Docker) to purge those files. This is also performed at the beginning of the script.

  • If something messed up seriously, drop the database by:
    python -m ghcc.database clear
  • If the code is modified, remember to rebuild the image since the script (executed inside Docker to compile Makefiles) depends on the library code. If you don't do so, well, GHCC will remind you and refuse to proceed.

Running the Decompiler

Decompilation requires an active installation of IDA with the Hex-Rays plugin. To run, simply execute:

python --ida path/to/idat64 [arguments...]

The following arguments are supported:

  • --ida [path]: Path to the idat64 executable found under the IDA installation folder.
  • --binaries-dir [path]: The directory where binaries are stored, i.e. the same value for --binary-folder in the compilation arguments. Defaults to binaries/.
  • --output-dir [path]: The directory to store decompiled code. Defaults to decompile_output/.
  • --log-file [path]: Path to the log file. Defaults to decompile-log.txt.
  • --timeout [int]: Maximum decompilation time (seconds) for one binary. Defaults to 30.
  • --n-procs [int]: Number of worker processes to spawn. Defaults to 0 (single-process execution).

Advanced Topics

Heuristics for Compilation

The following procedure happens when compiling a Makefile:

  1. Check if directory is "make"-able: A directory is marked as "make"-able if it contains (case-insensitively) at least one set of files among the following:

    • (Make) Makefile
    • (automake)

    If the directory is not "make"-able, skip the following steps.

  2. Clean Git repository:

    git reset --hard  # reset modified files
    git clean -xffd  # clean unversioned files
    # do the same for submodules
    git submodule foreach --recursive git reset --hard
    git submodule foreach --recursive git clean -xffd

    If any command fails, ignore it and continue executing the rest.

  3. Build:

    1. If exists a file named, run automake:

      autoreconf && automake --add-missing
    2. If exists a file named configure, run the configuration script:

      chmod +x ./configure && ./configure --disable-werror

      The --disable-werror prevents warnings being treated as errors in cases where -Werror is specified.

      If command fails within 2 seconds, try again without --disable-werror.

    3. Run make:

      make --always-make --keep-going -j1

      The --always-make flag rebuilds all dependent targets even if they exist. The --keep-going flag allows Make to continue for targets if errors occur in non-dependent targets.

      If command fails within 2 seconds and the output contains "Missing separator", try again with bmake (BSD Make).

      Note: We override certain program with our "wrapped" versions by modifying the PATH variable. The list of wrapped programs are:

      • GCC: (gcc, cc, clang) Swallows unnecessary and/or error-prone flags (-Werror, -march, -mlittle-endian), records libraries used (-l), overrides the optimization level (-O0), adds override flags specified in the arguments, and calls the real GCC. If the real GCC fails, writes the libraries to a predefined path.
      • sudo: Does not prompt for the password, but instead just tries to execute the command without privileges.
      • pkg-config: Records libraries used, and calls the real pkg-config. If it fails (meaning packages cannot be resolved), write the libraries to a predefined path.

Collecting and Installing Libraries

Most repositories require linking to external libraries. To collect libraries that are linked to in Makefiles, run the script with the flag --record-libraries path/to/library_log.txt. Only libraries in commands that failed to execute (GCC return code is non-zero) are recorded in the log file.

After gathering the library log, run path/to/library_log.txt to resolve libraries to package names (based on apt-cache). This step requires actually installing packages, so it's recommended to run it in a Docker environment:

docker run --rm \
    -v /absolute/path/to/directory/:/usr/src/ \
    gcc-custom \
    " /usr/src/library_log.txt"

This gives a list of packages to install. Add the list of packages to Dockerfile (the command that begins with RUN apt-get install -y --no-install-recommends) and rebuild the image to apply changes.

Notes on Docker Safety

Compiling random code from GitHub is basically equivalent to running curl | bash, and doing so in Docker would be like curl | sudo bash as Docker (by default) doesn't protect you against kernel panics and fork bombs. The following notes describe what is done to (partly) ensure safety of the host machine when compiling code.

  1. Never run Docker as root. This means two things: 1) don't use sudo docker run ..., and 2) don't execute commands in Docker as the root user (default). The first goal can be achieved by create a docker user group, and the second can be achieved using a special entry-point: create a non-privileged user and use gosu to switch to that user and run commands.

    Caveats: When creating the non-privileged user, assign the same UID (user ID) or GID (group ID) as the host user, so files created inside the container can be accessed/modified by the host user.

  2. Limit the number of processes. This is to prevent things like fork bombs or badly written recursive Makefiles from taking up the kernel memory. A simple solution is to use ulimit -u <nprocs> to set the maximum allowed number of processes, but such limits are on a per-user basis instead of a per-container or per-process-tree basis.

    What we can do is: for each container we spawn, create a user that has the same GID as the host user, but with a distinct UID, and call ulimit for that user. This serves as a workaround for per-container limits.

    Don't forget to chmod g+w for files that need to be accessed from host.

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